me set the scene - which for any commercial skipper in Auckland will be all too
familiar. Auckland Harbour, Anniversary Day, steaming down from Rangitoto light
towards North Head. Late afternoon, full load of passengers. Boats of every size
& shape all around and behind, and the view ahead just a seething mass of
churned water, sails & hulls. Everybody going home, all trying to fit
through the choke point between Bean Rock and North Head. Sooner or later, I’m
going to have to cross through that lot to get to the berth and disembark the
notice off to Port an unfinished keeler (no mast) motoring across from Northern
Leading, heading sharper in to North Head, so sooner or later she will cross my
course. She’s on my Port shoulder, making roughly the same speed as my 8.5
knots. We slowly converge, the bearing steady. Since she’s in my standing-on
arc and only 50 metres away, I keep an eye on her and expect her to change
course soon. At this point, if nothing changes, we will collide in about 2
minutes. I notice that the skipper of the boat and his Lady are standing in the
stern cockpit, each with a glass in their hands. They are staring at me. Seconds
distance has now shrunk to 30 metres. I am keeping a careful eye on them,
thinking about my weight, speed and stopping distances. I think of using the
horn, but since they are staring right at me I can’t see any advantage in that
yet and while the regs require me to hold course, I start peeling off some
RPM’s. The intervening seconds have brought us closer. I’m now starting to
think that this guy is playing chicken and will give way any second. I am much
bigger and heavier, he will know that an impact with me will cause me little
damage but will easily sink him. At 10 metres I give him a wake-up call on the
horn, which brings no reaction whatever. I pay off to Starboard, anxious about
other vessels coming up my Starboard side. We are now closing quite fast, even
if the approach is side-to-side. I lean out the wheelhouse door, and shout down
at the guy (that’s how close we are now) “I take it you are going to give
way before we actually touch?”
impeccable manners, he replies “Sorry old man. Can’t do that. Steering’s
jammed in position....” I had enough time to get a little reverse thrust, and
he disappeared under my stem at about 3 metres distance, popping out the other
side, not looking back, chatting away to his Lady, and continuing to cause
mayhem and chaos with many other boats as he went down the shallow side of 9
buoy and disappeared. Only God knows what finally happened to him.
start edging over towards Bean Rock, and spot a Blue Boats tug-and-barge coming
up from St Heliers way. Good stuff - here’s my Trojan Horse. All I have to do
is sneak around the stern of the barge and hang off the Port quarter. Five
minutes later I’m snug as a bug in a rug. He’s got right of way, and he’s
got my ticket home. Wrong......
in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that a small keeler would challenge a
tug-and-barge for right of way in the channel. I couldn’t see much from where
I was - the first indication of trouble was the tug slewing round to Starboard,
the barge catching her under the starboard quarter and shoving her dangerously
sideways, me staying out of harms way, and in the middle of it all, catching
sight of a mast and sail over the top of the tug. With masterful skill, the tug
skipper got it all sorted, tow-line and barge straightened, and making way
again. The keeler did a complete 360, and to my stunned amazement, then
proceeded to try and go between the tug and the barge, only at the last moment coming to
a complete stop just short of disaster. As we passed the keeler, its skipper
looked up at me, pointed at the tug and shouted “typical arrogant bastard -
what happened to power gives way to sail?” There really wasn’t anything
constructive I could say at that point. What would you have said? Remember - I
was carrying passengers.....
finally, a little gem to finish off - Islington Bay, late afternoon, calm day.
Sitting up on the foredeck in companionable silence, enjoying a quiet drink.
Except for us, the Bay is deserted. The silence is broken by the noisy arrival
of a 10 metre gin palace with eight people jammed into the flying bridge. Having
the whole Bay to choose from, they roar over towards us, and stop with full
reverse thrust amid a welter of spray and bow wave. We steady our glasses until
the rocking settles. The ‘operator’ (I baulk at using the label
‘skipper’) pushes a button on the dash. The anchor drops straight down, as
does the contents of the chain locker. Full astern is then engaged, and we crane
our necks to follow his progress backwards at high speed across the bay, some
200 metres. With much vocal discord, he pushes another button and the anchor is
drawn in. Full ahead, and he arrives alongside again. We steady our glasses.....
to say that this process is repeated exactly the same for a further three tries.
speed. We resumed our conversation as if nothing had happened. And, in meaningful terms, nothing had.......
Steve Punter ANZIM,
Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.
© Steve Punter 2001 All rights reserved by the author.